(Un)Happy Jewish New Year!

I am not Jewish, which is possibly how I ended up house managing a Rosh Hashanah service at the Big Famous University today. I didn’t know what event I was working, so I was very grumbly as I rose at 5:30 this morning after a terrible night’s sleep and was at work by 7:15. When I found out it was a Rosh Hashanah service, I thought, ‘Well, that least that’s interesting.’ And I guess it was, but I didn’t get to see much of the service; I did hear the entire three and a half hour service over the speaker, though, most of it in Hebrew, which is very nice to listen to.

When I found out that I was managing a religious service, I figured it would be a pretty easy day; reports about last night’s service were that they arrived late, left early, and didn’t cause any problems. And in general, it was an easy day. But there are always one or two people who have to make sure my day isn’t TOO easy. Today, I had two.

I was a little annoyed because the woman running the service didn’t arrive until the minute she wanted the doors to be open, making it hard to be prompt in doing that. But after that annoyance, she was nice, so I let it go. There were only about 120 people expected to attend, and since the ground floor of our auditorium holds 800, we were instructed not to open the balconies. People wandered in and out of the service the entire time and for about an hour and a half, things ran smoothly. Then all of a sudden, this man, probably in his sixties, storms into my office. Öne of my ushers, Ceara, was sitting closest to him, so she said, “Hello, sir, how can I help-” He ignored her and stomped over to me.

“Are you in charge?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Your staff is telling me that I can’t sit upstairs in the balcony!”

“That’s true. The auditorium holds 800 people, so there are plenty of seats on the ground level.”

“Well, I have children, and for the past few years, we’ve been allowed to sit in the balcony. ”

I was wondering what age this man’s “kids” were, considering that he was kind of old to have small children. But I answered, “Sir, the kids are allowed to sit in the seats on the ground floor.”

“I want my kids to be able to run around and talk. How are they supposed to do that on the ground floor?”

This, too, was confusing. There’s no partition between the balcony and the rest of the auditorium, so if the kids were making noise on the balcony, it wouldn’t be quieter than if they were on the ground floor. In fact, it might be louder. And even worse, while them running up and down the aisle might not be good, the steps in the balcony are EXTREMELY steep, and way too dangerous for little feet to be navigating. There was no way that allowing kids to “run around” up there was a good idea. I was also kind of annoyed that, if this man’s kids were that disruptive, he had brought them to the service at all. As a kid in church, I was expected to sit quietly, as were all the kids around me, and most of us did it fairly successfully- and if we didn’t, we were chastised and/or taken out of the room. And considering the tone this man was taking with me, I knew he was able to sound menacing enough to shut a kid up.

So I told him again that I would not be opening the balcony for him and his family. Besides the fact that it wasn’t safe, opening the balcony would involve sacrificing one of my few ushers to go up there and, I’m sure, babysit the children while the adults ignored them. My staff didn’t deserve that, especially since I was sure, if a kid got hurt, they would be blamed for it and not the negligent parents (who, I found out later, were the children of the man to whom I was speaking; he was the grandfather in the situation.)

The man was floored that, no matter what he said, I would not let him upstairs. “We have ALWAYS been allowed to sit upstairs. The RABBI lets us sit upstairs.”

“I’m just following the rules laid out for me, and you’re the only person who has asked to go upstairs. I’m not going to open it for one family.”

“I’m sure there are other people who have wanted to go up, but that belt across the stairway makes them think it’s not open.” (Kind of the point, sir…) “And they may not say anything but let me tell you-” And here, he leaned in very close to me. “I will.”

Of course, after I said no again, he threw a tantrum and demanded to seethe event contact, whom I couldn’t find. He grudgingly headed into the main level of the auditorium (sans children- I didn’t see him with children, even the grown ones, at all today), but not before growling, “Let me tell you, young lady, we’ve ALWAYS been allowed to sit in the balcony.” I half expected him to add, “You’ll be sorry for this!” but instead he just asked for my name, I’m sure to report me. But I’m not worried. After all, he can tell my boss every little thing I said and did, and it all just adds up to me doing my job.

I feel like part of his extreme anger is that he didn’t enjoy being told what to do by me. After all, I look like a teenager and, even though I’m not one, I’m still a person decades younger than him who is denying him something that he feels he has the right to. I’m sure he thought he could bully his way upstairs, but I had been forced to get up before the sun. I was not in a bargaining mood.

This wasn’t the only instance of guys thinking it was their special day. Another man, this one even older, tried to insist his way upstairs by elevating his illness. He peeked into my office and was like, “Miss, I have to sit upstairs because of my-” and he held up a nasal spray. I was confused as to why nasal spray would require someone to sit upstairs, and I told him that we weren’t opening the balcony. “But I have this awful cough,” he said, hacking pitifully, “And I already tried to sit downstairs and people complained. HILLEL MEMBERS!” he told me,  as though the Hillel members being particularly annoyed was going to influence my decision. I still told him no, he asked to see the event contact, and when I found her, she also told him no. He continued to cough as if to prove that he was actually sick, but the case was the same as with the children: there was no soundproof barrier in the balcony. The man waited around the lobby (where you could still hear the service) for awhile, finally saying poutily that he’d just stay out there. And glory be, his cough was cured- I didn’t hear it once for the hour he was sitting there. It’s a Rosh Hashanah miracle!

The rest of the day ran smoothly, and we even got out an hour early. One day, I aspire to be like these men- totally focused on only my wants and not caring how hard I make other people’s jobs. It must be nice to live like that…



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